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The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  422 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Whaling in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast was as dangerous as it was lucrative in 1897. In that particular year, winter came early, bringing with it storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and about three hundred sailors off guard. The ships were imprisoned in ice with no hope of escape. With limited provisions on board the ships that hadn’t been ...more
Hardcover, 164 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Candlewick (first published February 14th 2012)
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Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one instance when the title isn't hyperbole. To save the crews of several whaleships stranded by ice off the coast of Alaska, in the middle of winter, and to do so by trekking hundreds of miles across land, herding reindeer... It's audacious, desperate, and very nearly impossible. This definitely belongs in the list of daring adventures.

Sandler spends much of the book letting the men involved speak for themselves. That works, because they tended to be good writers, and no one knew bette
A good, quick look at a thrilling tale of daring rescue. I bought it during a Youth History sale on Amazon and it looked interesting (I love tales of the Arctic and Antarctic) and I thought it would be appropriate as winter falls on the Midwest.

I have to give praise both to the men who blazed the path and to the author, for neither forgot to mention frequently how vital the knowledge, hospitality, generosity, and skill of the indigenous Alaskan peoples was. Often, the white men (inevitably) that
In October 1897, a whaling ship arrived in San Francisco Harbor bearing the news that eight other whaling ships with crews totaling 300 men had become embedded in ice in the northernmost part of Alaska at Point Barrow. An early gale had caught the whalers off guard. The ice surrounding the ships ranged from 30 to 40 feet thick. Unless help could reach them, the crews were certain to face starvation over the long Arctic winter. In response to public demand, President William McKinley ordered a re ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Whaling has factored in some classic novels, but the action in The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure doesn't commence until after whaling season. Navigating the Arctic Ocean has always held risk, but in 1897 the whaling industry lacked the safeguards of advanced technology. Our story begins when eight ships become trapped in ice on the water off Alaska's coast, stranding their full crews with winter setting in. If the weather didn't claim their lives before the ice ...more
Dakota Lenz
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Personal Response
I thought the book was pretty good, but I never really fully understood why they had to walk over 1500 miles and arrived in April when they could have just waited one more month and the ice would have been melted enough to be able to get to them. I enjoyed how they gave a lot of detail about the 1500 mile journey and how Jarvis and his crew were able to make it that distance in terrible weather. I enjoyed how they went home after they got back to Seattle and how later on some o
Jim Erekson
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ever since being drawn in by the opening scenes of Frankenstein with the icebound ship, this kind of bleak setting and desperate narrative has been something I enjoy in books. I was dragged on enough winter camps as a scout in the 80s to know that I would absolutely hate it. Butterfield Canyon in the Oquirrhs, 1982, was the worst--we couldn't even nail down the corners of the tents because the snow was so deep, and everyone just stayed up all night with their feet up to the fire. In the morning ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen-booktalks
It’s 1897. There are no phones. No GPS. Nothing but the people who went before you to provide information. And sometimes, you didn’t even have that.
Eight American whaleships set out into the Arctic waters off the Alaskan coast. But winter came early that year, and 300 sailors were trapped in the Arctic ice. Warmer weather was at best, 10 months away. They were in almost 24-hour a day darkness, and temperatures were easily 60 degrees below zero. If the ice moved, it would crush anything it held,
Not a badly written adventure book detailing the brave effort of Revenue Service pre-Coast Guard) officers to relieve the crews of ice-locked (or destroyed) ships caught off the coast of northern Alaska in wintertime, but it felt a bit bland. I enjoyed it up to a point, and then got tired (like I was caught in deep snow myself), and I just wanted it over. Still, it was a remarkable feat, and it is good that it is covered. He used original materials and remembrances to good effect.
An intriguing account of the 1897 rescue of Alaskan whaling ships trapped in the ice. As much a story about the Alaskan frontier as it is about the rescue, this book is a valuable resource about American settlers and indigenous people. Includes a treasure-trove of period photographs taken during the rescue expedition.
Edward Sullivan
A harrowing, true story of shipwrecks, survival, and daring rescue. Great use of period photographs.
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. I recently became interested in reading about other parts of the world and the Arctic has always been a place I wanted to learn more about.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
A low quality writer, using his low quality skills to produce a low quality book.

Spoiler alert: Martin does not gain enough money to buy a dictionary and probably is too old to know what the Internet is. So impossible actually means long and boring. The guy actually has a very limited understanding of the vocabulary he uses, like "the Arctic waters freezing over more solidly every day".

Oh, and the story is about some soldiers of fortune killing whales.

Overall Martin has a problem grasping the me
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very fast read, but full of pictures from a most ridiculous rescue adventure, which I'd never heard of.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is a very interesting account of a successful Arctic rescue. The men involved were incredible human beings, willing to risk much and inconvenience themselves to help others. Great read!
Sunday Cummins
Engaging read aloud for grades 5-8.
The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
Martin W. Sandler. 2012. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 176 pp. US$22.99.
Imagine. Alaskan terrain. Winter. 1898. You have 400 reindeer and 1600 pounds worth of provisions you need to move 700 miles in less than eight week. To rescue 300 whalers whose ships are frozen at a standstill and who will starve if you don’t get there soon. Add to that the unpredictable weather of the Arctic. Blizza
Vera Godley
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
When so very much of our reading takes place in the realm of fiction - young and old, it is refreshing to read a non-fiction accounting of a true adventure involving insurmountable difficulties and incredible hardship and accomplishment.

In 1897 three hundred crewmen from eight whaling ships were trapped in the Arctic ice and then a winter storm entrapped them further locking them in the throes of ice. Rescue of the trapped men was ordered by President McKinley, but he would not order individual
Bethany Miller
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
The Impossible Rescue tells the story of the mission to rescue eight whaling ships stranded in the Arctic off of Point Barrow, Alaska. Temperatures dropped and ice formed early in September of 1897, trapping the ships as ice formed around them. When news of this reached the main land, people demanded that something be done to help the over 265 men on board the ships who would surely die before the ice melted in spring. Word reached President McKinley, and he ordered a rescue mission which seemed ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reason for Reading: This book covers many of my interests; the time period, true tales of survival and life in the Arctic. I had not hear of this true story and it appealed to me.

When first setting eyes upon this book, the thing that strikes one is the coffee-table book appeal. The book is an over-sized square and illustrated on almost every page with contemporary photographs taken by one of the rescue members, Dr. Call, from start to finish. This is an amazing photographic memorial to this amaz
Tessa Joy
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In September 1897, eight whaling ships get iced-in just off the northern coast of Alaska. Word spreads to the Whitehouse of the plight awaiting the 265 marooned whalers. President William McKinley orders the captain of the Bear, a ship in the Revenue Cutter Service, to send three officers overland to gather reindeer herds and drive the animals 1,000 miles to the whalers’ location near Point Barrow, Alaska. Three men are chosen for the mission: First Lieutenant David Jarvis oversees the Overland ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 12-16 year olds
Recommended to Beverly by: Best Books for Young Adults/
The Impossible Rescue is an amazing true story of leadership, teamwork, survival and selflessness. In 1897 eight whaling ships and three hundred crewmen were entombed in ice when an early, fierce winter bombarded them with freezing storms and no way to escape. President McKinley ordered a rescue, but the mission was so dangerous and success so remote that he said no one could be ordered to participate. Three men stepped up to create a plan and excute the rescue. The logistics involved are mind b ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found it really hard to care. Too many names, too many dudes, too much snow, too many disasters: it all ran together and turned into mush in my brain. I do think that Arctic exploration and adventures are interesting and exciting, but this book didn't do enough to make those adventures distinctive and engaging.
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
In September 1897, winter came early in Alaska, and eight whaling ships became stuck in the rapidly-forming ice at the northern tip of Alaska, leaving 265 whalers trapped with few supplies and little food. When word got out about their predicament, none other than U.S. President William McKinley ordered that they be rescued and provided the outline of just how that was to be undertaken: three men were to land on the Alaskan coast--as far north as they could go--and then cross the 1700 miles to t ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: booktalks
It’s winter, but it’s not a Midwest winter- it’s the Arctic. The people involved in this harrowing story didn’t have warm homes to bundle up in. In fact in the beginning they weren’t even on land they were in ships. They were on whaling ships that waited just a little too long to head home and ended up getting stuck in the ice on the far northern shore of Alaska.
While the captain and crews from the ships were able to make a 60 mile trek to the closest town they’re still trapped. There’s not eno
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
As the year begins to wind up, I'm trying to catch up with all of the notable children's non-fiction from 2012. This was the first of those such books I began while in the middle of a vacation I took leading up to Thanksgiving. This little known rescue of stranded whalers off the coast of Alaska in the late 1890s was filled with first-hand accounts from those directly involved with this harrowing rescue. Conditions were terrible, but the rescuers had much help along the way from the various peop ...more
Reed McMurray
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Whaling in the Arctic waters is very dangerous, and timing is very important. “The Impossible Rescue” by Martin Slander takes place in 1897. There were 8 ships, and 300 men out whaling this year, when winter decided to come early. Temperatures quickly dropped into the negatives while the waters began to freeze, trapping all 8 ships in the freezing arctic. President McKinley order three men to venture 1,500 miles to bring these men the food and supplies they needed to survive the dark cold winter ...more
Jake Cannady
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing only if you are the type of person that loves and craves survival because this is the ultimate survival book come true while I was just starting this book I instantly felt like I was apart of the book, almost like I was exactly inside the ultimate survival. If you are the survival type then this book has your name written all over it. A captain by the name of Benjamin Tilton also know as "Captain Tilton" had just recently been in a horrible collision with an enormous ice ber ...more
Jenn Estepp
2 1/2. The real-life events behind this book are fascinating and, while this book is beautifully designed and the maps + actual photographs are great additions, I didn't always feel that the narrative did the story justice. Even with a teeny bit of knowledge regarding whaling, I thought a little more background on the profession would've been helpful, as would a cast-of-characters at the start of the book. It took me a while to get the who's who straight and I frequently had to go back and rerea ...more
When winter comes unexpectedly early in 1897, eight whaling ships and 300 sailors are stranded in the ice. Although a scientist, a whaling station owner and some of the indigenous peoples provided shelter and food, supplies would certainly run out before the ships could be freed. This engaging nonfiction title describes the journey of three men who traveled across the frozen Alaskan territory driving herds of reindeer ahead of them, a sort of Meals on Wheels to keep the whalers alive. It's hard ...more
As an adult, I really enjoyed this book. The story of the trip over thousands of miles of Alaskan shoreline during the winter was amazing. The men who accomplished what many thought to be impossible were very brave and heroic.

As I was reading, though, I kept wondering if this story was written with enough excitement to entice my fifth graders to try to read it. The prose is very matter-of-factual. This, after all, is nonfiction. I guess I was hoping for some of the excitement that the reader ca
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
If the writing had been less dense, I think this book could go more places than it will. The story is truly amazing and was impossible, but it was done with brave men, indigenous people, animals, and a sense of heroism and accomplishment.

The pictures are intriguing and add to the understanding of the terrain and horrific conditions as well as the scarcity of resources and how much the rescue fell to the small whaling camps, native communities, and the luck of the weather (and in most cases how i
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Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.
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“Adventure, suspense, almost unimaginable heroics – these are just some of the ingredients of a story made even more remarkable because it really happened.” 0 likes
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